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UNLV Center's Margin Tax Study Revised To Project Less Revenue, Fewer Jobs

Economists with UNLV’s Center for Business and Economic Research came out firing last week in defense of their margin tax study, after the university’s interim president, Don Snyder, asked the nonpartisan think tank Brookings Institution to review its findings.

In a statement released last week, Snyder said the center’s report “does not represent the position or view of the university.”

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At the time, Stephen Brown, director of the center, said their experts did not “offer an opinion” in their study of The Education Initiative.

But what a difference a week makes. On Tuesday, Brown announced that the study had been revised and re-posted on the center’s website.

Brown told Jon Ralston’s websiteon Tuesday that the study was not changed due to pressure from administrators, even after UNLV tried to discredit it, but because “colleagues pointed out some things that can be improved upon.”

Dan Hart, campaign manager for The Education Initiative, paid the CBER to do the study. In the  introduction to the revised study, Brown reiterated that the CBER was not “commissioned to generate an opinion either for or against the tax.”

He said their task was to assess the state of education funding in Nevada and to use state-of-the-art impact analysis methodology to arrive at reasonable predictions of how the proposed tax and spending would affect employment and other economic outcomes.

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“As a result of comments from our colleagues and the recent release of an RCG Economics report on the margin tax, we have updated out analysis,” Brown said. “We believe our updated analysis provides a more accurate and nuanced perspective on the likely economic effects of the Education Initiative—including the margin tax and the K-12 education spending it would support.”

Brown also mentions Mary Riddle and Bernard Malamud, both from UNLV's Lee School of Business, in a new set of acknowledgements. The Education Initiative is a proposed 2 percent tax on businesses earning more than $1 million in revenue per year that will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot.

CBER’s study originally concluded that the tax could earn the state up to $862 million for Nevada while creating 13,000 jobs in 2016. The revised study puts those figures at $362 million and 11,500 jobs in 2016. Brown wrote the net gains include job losses in most, but not all, private sector industries.

“The net effect on state GDP will be a wash across the 2016-17 biennium, with a small increase in 2016 and a small decrease in 2017,” Brown wrote. “We consider these smaller estimate to be more realistic.”

View the revised study here.
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(Editor's note: Chris Sieroty no longer works for Nevada Public Radio)